Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This particular one was special, as we were celebrating the 5,000th blanket donated. Project Linus provides hand-made quilts and afghans to children in the terminal ward and the ICU, as well as blankets to preemies and "angel afghans" for stillbirths. I've been involved with Project Linus for four years now. They're my chosen charity.

The energy at the bees is fabulous and restorative. Not only is every participant self-selected, the degree of creativity and original thinking is high. Quilters selecting squares and rectangles of fabrics that relate to each other—different prints of sports, cars, cats, space themes of rockets and aliens; crocheters fitting granny squares together in melded colorways or finding ways to make stripes of scraps blend pleasingly; knitters trying new stitches or techniques—entrelac, counterpanes, intarsia, fair isle, modular knitting, lace. And everyone is working on something to be given away.

Judie hit on the idea of holding contests to increase the parts of the stash that go quickly or are chronically low. This time, the contest was for blue and purple blankets. I didn't have time to get a dog in that fight, but the winning knitted/crocheted blanket made me want to go grab my hook and figure out how that was done! (Done in granny squares, with the featured motif being little hearts in the square. Baby afghan sized, sport weight yearn. Too cute!) March's contest will be "boy" blankets, since boys are the sex more prone to illness (just structure) and injury (just nature).

I participate because for me, a blanket is a great huge canvas for me to work with. No fitting issues, no worries about a carefully chosen motif vanishing into an armscye or being bitten into by a seam. I can play with color, I can doodle with technique, and in the end it will go to be someone's woobie, thrown in the washer and returned to be chewed on, drooled on, cried on. I get the fun part, the planning and the making and a chance to give directly to the people in my community.

I have issues with groups like the United Way—I've seen their plush offices! Every time they advertise, I recall a meeting I attended in their office—we were just using their space, mind, we weren't affiliated in any way. I recall the oak table all fifteen of us sat around, how there was room for another ten without getting cozy, and oh, yeah, the wet bar. So now every time I see them shilling for bucks, the first thing that comes to mind is "Bud or Coors? Or would you prefer Dewars?" How much of my dollar is going to support flummery like that so they can wangle the big bucks from corporations?

Yes, just like getting a loan from the bank, you have to look like you don't need it in order to get it—but my ‘nads still get frosted thinking about it.

But the economics of a blanket are in MasterCard's "priceless" category. You can't sell it for booze or trade it for drugs. It gives someone in a distressing, disorienting place an anchor to hang on to—and hospitals are distressing, disorienting places for a healthy adult. For a very sick kid, whose bottom line is that strangers come in and stick you with needles, make you swallow vile concoctions or make you take pills, all while you don't feel well at all—yuck. Anything to make it a little better.

And also, to some extent, I feel that charitable contributions should be made in private. If you don't, is it for the sake of your fellow man, or for your ego? "Look at me, everybody, I give and give and give! Aren't I SWELL?" "Look at me in my fur coat, jewelry, and designer dress! I'm only going to wear it once, to this dinner which costs $300.00 per plate! All for charity; aren't I magnificent?" "You should thank me for taking a whole day to come here to the soup kitchen to ladle out stew for you. You should be grateful for your bowl of brown, which I am helping to provide. You SHOULD thank me for contributing my time and effort this one four-hour shift per year." And what about the 364 that aren't Christmas Eve, the day after Thanksgiving, or the Annual Black & White Ball? What is the Great Giver doing then to improve the lot of other people on this mudball?

Nothing. Giving at the office, maybe. Or at least saying he does when a United Way rep comes calling. Because after all, he shoots his wad where it can be seen ands exclaimed over. For him, the reward is primarily in the reaction of others who see him doing his annual good deed.

I prefer to take my reward in the act itself.

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